Capturing light may sound like a magical concept… and in many ways, it is. You may be thinking of some science fiction. Still, in reality, we’re simply talking about taking a picture… a photograph… a snapshot of a single moment in time, an immediate recording of every drop of light. And while the process in and of itself is magical, these still frames provide an enchanted window to the past – not as a memory, but as it was, in all its glory and triumph.
Some of the most unforgettable moments in modern times involve a particular set of individuals we hold dearly; you could even go as far as to say some worship these icons – our sports heroes.
With that, Rehs Contemporary is proud to announce the offering of artwork by renowned sports photographer Walter Iooss – an original collage featuring 27 individual basketball images, as well as a special limited edition in-game photograph of a young Michael Jordan. Dubbed the Rembrandt of Photography, Iooss’s work has graced the cover of Sports Illustrated more than 300 times while documenting more than five decades of highlights under bright lights and intimate moments many of us only dream of – think ringside for Muhammad Ali or watching Michael Jordan lace up his shoes in the locker room.
Iooss’s original collage, which has been housed in his studio collection for nearly 25 years, is centered around Wilt “The Stilt” Chamberlin – one of the most illustrious figures in NBA history. The 7′ 1″ Goliath won 2 NBA Championships and was voted MVP four times as he would lead the league in scoring 7 (consecutive) seasons in his career… but Chamberlin was perhaps best known as an elite rebounder, a category he led the league in a staggering 11 times. The 18 x 18-inch black and white snapshot looking up at a towering Chamberlin snatching a rebound in the 1967 NBA Playoffs memorializes Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals, when he secured a playoff record 41 rebounds… a playoff record that still stands today. Encircling the focal piece are 26 polaroid size images of some of Iooss’s favorite moments and players – among the bunch are multiple shots of Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan, Julius Erving, Earl Monroe, and Jerry West… but Iooss also includes an image of kids playing basketball in the streets of New York City, seemingly as a way to remind us that the passion does not simply manifest at the upper echelon of the athletic performance but is born out of a childhood love for the game.
The other work, measuring 23 x 23 inches and limited to an edition of 23 (an overt nod to his jersey number), depicts an airborne Michael Jordan in the midst of a reverse layup on his way to a new career-high (at the time) 61-point scoring game, which was also a new Bulls franchise record. The 1986-87 season truly represented the emergence of a legend… while Jordan saw a stellar rookie season in 1984-85, he broke his foot in the third game of the 1985-86 campaign. In this third season, Jordan would go on to have one of the most prolific scoring seasons in NBA history – the only player other than Wilt Chamberlain to score more than 3,000 points in a season, averaging 37.1 points on 48.2% shooting. Perhaps most interesting about this piece and his elite performance that night is that the rival team would become a major roadblock in Jordan’s pursuit of an NBA championship, and one of his greatest rivalries – the Detroit Pistons.
The photographs Iooss has snapped over his career encompass just a fraction of the greatness he has witnessed. And while these magical moments are fleeting, they live on through the work of Walter Iooss – the sports fan from New Jersey who discovered photography at fifteen and never looked back, only forward at a squared-off view through his camera’s lens.